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Did The Draft Help The Packers?

Another way to look at the results of the recent NFL draft was whether GM Ted Thompson added players to areas where the Packers struggled in 2007. It was a great season, but some units have room for improvement. Here are the 2007 offensive and defensive ranks from Football Outsiders and NFL.com.

Football Outsiders NFL.com
Passing Offense 5th

2nd

Rushing Offense 9th 21st
Passing Defense 18th 12th
Rushing Defense 6th 14th

The biggest disconnect is the reality of the Packers run offense and defense to the official NFL rank.

Anyone who watched RB Ryan Grant destroy opposing run defenses in the second half of 2007 might realize the rankings by FO and the NFL depressed the true quality of the run offense. Also, only four teams ran the ball fewer times than the Packers.

Although officially the NFL says the Packers run defense was average. But opponents only gained 3.9 yards/carry, which was 10th best, and opponents only ran for a 1st down 77 times against the Packers, which was the 4th fewest allowed.

The pass offense looks strong, but everyone is quite aware of QB Brett Favre's retirement, and the Packers couldn't stand pat.

The area that obviously needed help was the pass defense, but remember that the pass rush is just as important as the pass coverage.

This is post is only considering players drafted in the first four rounds, plus it excludes 4th round pick OL Josh Sitton who was drafted at the end of the round and is unlikely to play in 2008 with so many guys currently ahead of him on the depth chart. Anyone drafted after that is a longshot to help in 2008, if they can even make the team.

2nd Round WR Jordy Nelson
2nd Round QB Brett Brohm
2nd Round CB Patrick Lee
3rd Round TE Jermichael Finley
4th Round DE Jeremy Thompson

Finley counts as an addition to the passing game since he's not a big guy and unlikely to make a big difference as a run blocker. So Finley, Nelson, and Brohm are players who help the strongest area of the team, the pass offense. Even with Favre's retirement, QB Aaron Rodgers shouldn't be a major step down, so in this regard GM Ted Thompson used three of his top four picks to bolster an area that was already the best on the team.

It doesn't look like anything was done to help the run offense, but Brohm arguably helps it as a good passing game should help the run offense. If you include the 2008 6th round pick traded for Grant last September, then it looks like the run offense was given a major boost by trading a very late round pick for one of the best young running backs in the NFL.

The run defense got a boost with the addition of DE Jeremy Thompson. It might seem like a stretch that a 4th round pick would make an immediate assist on defense, but Thompson was known for his solid run defense in college.

Thompson also helps the pass defense by helping to replace DT Corey Williams, who had 7 sacks in each of the last two seasons. Although Thompson wasn't as well known for his pass rush, he showed a lot of speed at the NFL combine, and the coaches must think he can become a quality pass rusher. Plus, GM Ted Thompson did something he had never done before, and traded up to draft him.

CB Patrick Lee wasn't going to the Packers in any mock draft I read, but his size and speed is a big shot-in-the-arm to a pass defense that began to unravel by the end of the season. He struggled to stay in the starting lineup at Auburn, but finished his college career with a strong senior season.

Looking at the draft from the perspective of drafting to improve the weakest area in 2007, the pass defense, the draft disappointed by only adding one player of the top 100 chosen (DE Jeremy Thompson was taken 102nd overall). If the pass defense continues to decline in 2008, and the run defense struggles, then we might look back on the 2008 draft and remember that the Packers didn't do much to help those two areas.